Seven Trends in Church Names

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The call came from an eager young man starting a new church in Florida. He already had 50 people meeting in homes in Bible studies. They had secured a leased space to launch the church in just a few months. But they were having trouble coming to a consensus on the name of the church. What could I tell him about church names? Were there pitfalls or opportunities where they needed greater awareness for their church’s name?

While I could not provide a precise church name for their congregation, I could share with him these seven trends I had seen emerge. Perhaps “trend” is not the best choice of a word, since some of these issues have been around for quite a while.

  1. Newer churches are consistently using descriptors in their names other than denominational affiliation. Some are focusing on their location. Others are at least implying a distinctive doctrinal leaning. And still others are using more trendy and less common terms.
  2. Denominational names, though, are still dominant among church names. Though the information is four years old, OpenBible.info did a fascinating study of church names. Some of their conclusions are still valid today. Denominational names still dominate, and “Baptist” is the major denominational name.
  3. The most common church name is “First Baptist.” Over 5,000 churches have this name. Of course, this name by itself does not specify which Baptist denomination; and there are many different denominations that have Baptist in their own name.
  4. Many words are becoming common in newer church names. Some of those words are Christ, Community, Fellowship, Assembly, Center, Chapel, Life, Faith, Bible, Grace, and New.
  5. Outsiders are often confused about church names. Several years ago, I did an informal survey of the preferred denomination among unchurched persons. The second most frequent response was the “Community” denomination. Of course, that denomination does not exist; but it is in a lot of church names.
  6. The Internet has led to shorter church names. Churches are choosing names that don’t become a long URL.
  7. Church names may be important, but they are not the most important factor in people choosing a church home. Relationships, personal invitations, good preaching, and friendly people, among other reasons, still trump the church name as the reason someone chooses a particular church.

One of the more challenging features of a church name takes place when the church is named for a location, but that location no longer exists. Or, perhaps, the church moved from that location. So if Hickory Avenue Community Church is no longer located on Hickory Avenue, guests may be confused by the name related to the location. Still, many churches tenaciously hold on to such names, even if it engenders confusion.

I also see a number of churches take a name after a church split. For example, a group of people split from the Harmony Church after an ugly church fight, and took on the new name of Greater Harmony Church.

I would love to hear your thoughts on church names. I also hope some of you can share some interesting and, perhaps, humorous church names of which you are aware.

Posted on April 23, 2014


With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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110 Comments

  • I pastor a church and recently had a man publicly threaten, he would leave our church if I kept preaching/teaching on the importance of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. So, I’ve decided, just so there’s no confusion, the name of our next church plant will have God’s purpose for His church plainly stated in it’s name — “The Church of Disciples of Christ”.

  • Personally, I find it very confusing when a church calls themselves Journey Church, Fusion Church, etc. without any identifying denominational affiliation. One almost presumes non-denominational or non-participatory in denominational life. Of course, I understand that denominational allegiance is a thing of the past for Millennials, but there are still a few of us left out there that would like to know where to start narrowing our options when looking for a new church home. Even many of the denominationally-aligned churches will not indicate such on their websites. Is it really such a bad thing to be a Christian who worships as a Baptist? I don’t believe that being Baptist makes one church similar to another anymore than I believe there is only one shade of the color red, but it does give you a starting point. Great article, by the way, Thom. I appreciate you!

    • You have to do the work of reading their website and then going for a few weeks to really find out. Even then you may get a surprise and not go back.

    • I don’t mind the name not having the denomination, but I very much dislike it when neither the name nor the website disclose the denominational affiliation. In my area, I only discovered that two “community” churches were Southern Baptist because they were listed in a state convention’s website. I found another seemingly denomination-less church thru a church search via the Assemblies off God. None of these churches mentioned anywhere on their own websites that they were Southern Baptist or Assemblies of God. I really think that’s wrong. Name it what you will but if you have a denominational affiliation, you’d better be open about it.

    • I don’t think it’s so much what Millenials want as much as what people *think Millenials want (most churches who are doing this aren’t run by Millenials, but are trying to attract Millenials). Speaking as one in that age group myself, I think most of the “made up” names are cheesy anyway. Just say who you really are — one thing Millenials are known for is valuing authenticity. If you’re authentically baptist, just say it. That’s my opinion anyway…

  • Would you care to give input on church names with the denomination..ie: Pentecostal, Baptist, Catholic..etc when the denomination is scarred? Thx

  • Where could I find the answer to “why are so many churches ‘First’ when Jesus specifically said the first shall be last?”

    • i’ve always wanted to plant a church and call it ‘The Last Baptist Church of ______’ and then put Matthew 20:16 on the sign

    • Originally, the terms “First Baptist” and “Second Baptist” implied that the church went through a split, the original church took on the name “First Baptist ____” and the people that split off would be “Second Baptist _____.” Nowadays, it is a lot because of tradition and commonness. Many people don’t know the history. They aren’t saying they are first before Christ by any means, it is just a simple way of differentiating between two churches that were once one.

  • Mark Dance says on

    My current church is called “Second Baptist Church,” which made more sense in 1922 when there was only one other Baptist church in town (I won’t insult anyone by revealing the name of the first one). There are several other “First” churches in town (Baptist, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Assembly), but we are the only “Second.” Instead of bemoaning our secondary status, we have fun with it (not fun of it). Ex: “2nd Baptist is all about 2nd chances;” “Jesus taught that being first is over-rated, so we don’t even try…”

    Maybe we are making lemonade, but I like lemonade.

  • Jimmy Kiker says on

    Once while traveling in rural SC we saw a church named, for example, “Harmony Church”. About 300 yards down the road was another named “The Real Harmony Church”. Can you spell “church fight”? The sad part is that those two names are a permanent “testimony” to all who pass of an ugly part of that church’s history.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Wow.

    • That is like the Brentwood Church of Christ and Brentwood Hills Church of Christ. Brentwood is an anti-church. Brentwood Hills is mainstream.

      • How can you have an “anti-church” church?

      • Sue Mattson says on

        The ‘anti-church” nickname comes from the Church of Christ denomination. The ‘anti’s’ are a somewhat separate group from that denomination. They were called that because they were anti church sunday school lesson material, anti any activities in the church that were not named in the Bible. They attempt to be very purely Biblical.

  • Drew Dabbs says on

    I used to drive by one nearly every day in Waco called the “Pentecostal Cathedral of Faith Church of God in Christ.”

  • Brady Martin says on

    In Arkansas there is a churh named “First Baptist Church of Hicks!”

  • Personally, I prefer a church having their denominational affiliation in their name. It gives insight at a glance to what the church believes and teaches. If a church is a part of a particular denomination, you will (should) not be able to hide it when people join. If the denomination has a bad name in the area, don’t deny that you are a part, work hard to dispel the reputation. I have often wondered how someone who attends a non-denominational church for the first time learns of their beliefs and teachings. Who sets the guidelines for their statement of faith? Do their teachings change when they hire a new pastor? Do class leaders have a standard by which they teach? Is it just what ever they feel like at the moment? These are just a few of the things that go through my mind when looking only at the name of a church.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks Beth.

    • I have seen more churches under the same denominational umbrella be completely opposite from each other. A lot of it is congregation and clergy specific.

    • CLTBUCKEYE says on

      Couldn’t agree more.

    • Breanna Gregory says on

      Plainly, denominations of churches aren’t exactly biblical. In fact, Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians. We should not be looking to the name of the church to see what they “believe and teach”. The Church (notice the big C) overall should believe in and teach the BIBLE. I go to church to learn the Word of God not to understand a particular churches “beliefs”, “teachings”, methods or even become a member for that matter. Church is not about membership. While that is good, salvation and discipleship is the end goal. IF one is seeking for “guidelines for the statement of faith”, their methods for when a pastor changes , or the basic system of how everything runs, they can ask. And, if that particular church doesn’t have those things, maybe it is not the best fit for that person. But all in all, “non-denominational” is not a bad word. We are not any less Christians than people who are a part of denominations. There are systems in place for everything just like every good church, business or home. There is order, and while some may be flippant, that has never been my personal experience. Non-denominational Christians are some of the most sold-out for Jesus people I have ever met, with their only goal in life being to do what the Lord and what the Bible says because that is our ultimate authority whether a particular denomination stresses that or not.

  • Marsha Guerard says on

    I used to edit the obituaries for the daily newspaper in Charleston, S.C. My favorite church name was from a rural area: the High Hill Freewill Baptist Church.

  • Andrew Patton says on

    My church in the Chicagoland area changed its name 7 years ago because research indicated that the city we were in and “baptist” had very negative connotations which were barriers to out-of-church people stepping in.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Interesting. Thanks.

      • Dr. Rainer,
        Andy, John, and I had a good discussion about this post last night. We chatted about the pros and cons of not including a denominations name in a church’s name. The conclusion we came to- really the conclusion Andy presented so well- was that it’s really only churched people who are looking for a specific denominations name and researching what a church believes when deciding whether or not to visit.
        Frankly, our church isn’t targeting churched people at all. I can’t tell you how many of our friends came to our church because of a relationship they had with us or someone else and found out only at our membership class that we are affiliated with the SBC.
        This is what it often looks like: We become friends with someone. We invite them to our church as a natural part of sharing our lives and interests. They came to know Christ personally. They start serving in various ways, get baptized, and then decided to join the church officially.
        Church membership is important and valued, of course, and is a step our church wants everyone to take. Our pastor lays out everything we believe as a church and what church membership means in the class. This includes who we are affiliated with and why.
        Every single time my friends say, “I can not believe we joined a Southern Baptist Church!” I just laugh because in the end their denomination is secondary- even tertiary- to the new life they have in Christ and the incredible life change we observe in them and us as a result.
        So, long and short of it. There probably isn’t a right or wrong. Each church must decide for themselves and not judge others.
        Being Southern Baptist is definitely part of my identity as a person. But in the end- I’m not taking my denomination with me to Heaven. I’m just taking my “Yes” to Jesus.
        Thanks for the post- it gave my family a chance for some lively conversation.

      • Does name really matters from the salvation point of view…..please check another topic in my blog called colorofyahweh.wordpress.com

      • God said the name of his church sir. IGLESIA NI CRISTO (CHURCH OF CHRIST)

  • Ryan King says on

    There was a church in Indianapolis called ‘The Baptist Church’.

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